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  5. Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws

Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its many partners across the federal government, public and private sectors, and communities across the country and around the world have worked since 9/11 to build a new homeland security enterprise to better mitigate and defend against dynamic threats, minimize risks, and maximize the ability to respond and recover from attacks and disasters of all kinds. 

Together, these efforts have provided a strong foundation to protect communities from terrorism and other threats, while safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Americans. 

While threats persist, our nation is stronger than it was on 9/11, more prepared to confront evolving threats, and more resilient in the face of our continued challenges.

Through a multi-layered, risk based system, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken significant steps to prevent dangerous individuals from traveling to, entering and remaining in the United States and to ensure that immigration benefits are not granted to individuals who pose a threat to national security. The Department's efforts have focused on combating immigration fraud, improving the reliability and accuracy of personal identification documents, and enhancing information sharing while enhancing privacy safeguards.

Combating Immigration Fraud

  • Pre-Screening: Visa applicants, those seeking to enter the U.S. at a port of entry, refugee, and asylum applicants are subject to rigorous background vetting, biographic, and biometric checks–including checks against records obtained by the Department of Defense (DOD), in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Permanent Resident Card: The new Permanent Resident Card (commonly referred to as a "green card"), implemented in 2010, includes a radio frequency identification tag that allows Customs and Border Protection to quickly access the electronic records of travelers seeking to enter the United States and includes new security features that reduce the risks of counterfeiting, tampering, and fraud.
  • Employment Authorization Document: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated the Employment Authorization Document by adding a machine-readable zone that will allow border control officers to more efficiently identify people who have already been approved for immigration benefits and who have been reviewed previously by USCIS officers.
  • Forensic Document Laboratory: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Forensic Document Laboratory (FDL) is the federal government's forensic crime laboratory dedicated exclusively to fraudulent document detection and deterrence. USCIS works closely with the FDL to enhance its ability to identify fraudulent documents submitted in support of applications and petitions seeking immigration benefits.
  • Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises: USCIS implemented a new tool to enhance adjudications of certain employment-based immigration petitions known as the Web-based Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE). VIBE limits the need to request supplemental evidence directly from petitioning organizations while accelerating the adjudicative vetting process and enhancing the agency's anti-fraud capabilities.
  • International Student and Exchange Visitor Program: ICE manages the International Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which tracks and monitors the status and activities of nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors to ensure that only legitimate foreign students or exchange students gain entry to the United States and that they abide by the terms of their visas while here.

Strengthening Identification Verification

  • Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative: In 2009, DHS successfully implemented the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) for land and sea travel to the U.S., requiring that U.S., Mexican and Canadian citizens present a passport or other secure travel document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. Prior to WHTI, U.S. or Canadian travelers could present any of numerous documents and simply make an oral declaration of citizenship. In 2005, DHS checked five percent of all passengers crossing land borders by vehicles against law enforcement databases. Today, due to WHTI, the national query rate is over 97 percent.

Biometric Information-Sharing

  • Biometrics at Sea: The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has implemented a mobile biometrics collection system to identify undocumented migrants and match them against known databases of past criminal and immigration violations as well as terrorist watchlists. Through June 2011, the USCG has identified more than 900 individuals who were enrolled in the US-VISIT database as prior felons, violators of U.S. immigration laws, or other persons of interest and referred to law enforcement authorities for appropriate action.
  • International Agreements: DHS and the Department of State have worked with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to develop routine sharing of biometric information collected for immigration purposes. To date, this effort has identified many cases of routine immigration fraud, as well as dangerous people traveling under false identities.

Read the Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations, Progress Report 2011

Last Updated: 12/21/2022
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